We talk about this a lot but it is a fascinating reality. Yesterday I posted that the feds spend less on culture in New Brunswick than just about anywhere else. We know the feds flow less R&D spending here than any other province. All of the flagship federal industry development programs such as TPC, STDC, etc. flow very little funding to New Brunswick compared to most other provinces and, yet, we seem to be able to get piles of dough for highway twinning and construction.
And now we are going after more. I don’t want to get into the merits of one highway project over the other but the data is clear that New Brunswick spends among the most in Canada – per capita – on highways and among the least on post secondary education. The most on highways, the least on R&D. The most on highways, among the least on culture.
Unfortunately, it’s a matter of ‘envelopes’. The feds have various envelopes full of cash for certain kinds of public spending and not for others. If New Brunswick wanted to double its R&D spending as a percentage of GDP, for example, good luck with that – there is virtually no way the feds would step because that isn’t how it works. If New Brunswick wanted to allocated $30M a year to a large scale IT sector development effort, good luck with that – there isn’t a federal envelope.
But if you want to lay asphalt, there’s lots of money around for that.
The Building Canada infrastructure funding was an orgy of spending – the feds were begging for projects to fund – but they had to be hard infrastructure.
In some abstract sense, you would ‘build’ Canada a lot better if there was a serious economic development effort for this province but there isn’t an envelope for that.
I hope this changes. I hope the feds get behind a tight, focused strategy for economic development in New Brunswick.
By the way, you will take note I didn’t say above “the most on roads, the least on economic development” because that isn’t true. We don’t have really good comparative data on econ. dev. spending but I did some research a few years ago that puts us well above average in Canada for operational spending on econ. dev. (not including the value of incentive programs – just the bodies and overhead).
So with economic development, it may not even be more money – just better coordination. You lock the feds, province and local economic development reps in a room and don’t let them leave until they have a plan that aligns resources, efforts, sector focus, etc. That would be powerful, IMO.
But, you gotta change the envelopes.